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Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurse

What they do:

These nurses check vital signs, perform enemas, install catheters, dress wounds, deliver medicine, massage muscles, assist patients in maintaining their hygiene, help with feeding (for infants to the elderly), start IVs, monitor medical equipment and so much more. The nature of their work means licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses often have the most intimate, hands-on relationship with patients of any other professional in this industry's sphere. Having bedside manner is a necessity for the patient's well-being and for the nurse's career advancement.

Despite a convoluted name, the true differences between a licensed practical nurse, or an LPN, and a licensed vocational nurse, or an LVN, are ones of semantics and location. LVN is the term for this occupation in California and Texas. Within the nursing hierarchy, LPNs and LVNs usually supervise nursing aides and orderlies, but work under registered nurses and nurse practitioners.


The road to becoming a licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse starts with a state-approved educational certificate program that usually lasts a year. The program includes courses in nursing, biology and pharmacology, combined with supervised clinical work. After graduation but before starting work, LPNs and LVNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination, also known as NCLEX-PN. Some LPNs and LVNs also choose to obtain further licenses for various skills or specialties, like IV therapy. For more information on the certificate programs and proper licensing, visit the website for the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses.

What they make:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses was $43,170 in May 2015.

Where they work:

  • Nursing care facilities

  • Extended care facilities

  • Hospitals

  • Physician’s offices

  • Private homes

  • Junior colleges

  • Insurance agencies and carriers


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. As the baby-boom population ages, the overall need for healthcare services is expected to increase. LPNs and LVNs will be needed in residential care facilities and in home health environments to care for older patients.



Updated February 2017